homowo

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Images taken by Ghanaian photographer Nii Obodai during a Homowo Festival celebrated by the Ga people from the greater Accra region of Ghana:

This harvest festival is celebrated by the Ga people from the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.

It begins with the sowing of millet by the traditional priests in May. After this, thirty-day ban on drumming is imposed on the land by the priests.

The festival is highlighted at varying times by different quarters of the Ga tribe. The Ga-mashie group of the tribe will celebrate theirs’ a little earlier than the La group.

Homowo recounts the migration of the Gas and reveals their agricultural success in their new settlement. According to Ga oral tradition, a severe famine broke out among the people during their migration to present day Accra. They were inspired by the famine to embark on massive food production exercises which eventually yielded them bumper harvest.

Their hunger ended and with great joy they “hooted at hunger” this is the meaning of the word HOMOWO.

Quartey-Papafio, A.B. “ The Ga Homowo Festival”, Journal of the African Society, Vol. 19, 1919

September: Highlighting African Photographers

PHOTOS from HOMOWO celebrations with the people of Ga Mashie

As promised, we will release photos from the HOMOWO celebrations with people of Ga Mashie in Accra.We had a lot of fun and are pleased to bring you some images. Watch out for the photos and don’t forget to connect with us on all other social media platforms and also remember to send us your submissions, we will be glad to post them and of course credit our work. PHOTOS COURTESY www.vibrantghana.com

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The Gbemlilaa procession at the Homowo festival in Teshie Ghana, 2011

Gbemlilaa

Gbemlilaa

Elias, a former senior apprentice of the Kane Kwei Workshop, leads me through long alley ways and corridors deep within the slums of Teshie.  I clutch the camera hanging around my neck very firmly.  I am definitely on “the other side of the tracks”.  We begin to approach large hordes of people lining the streets. Guards armed with automatic guns are keeping the crowds off the street.  Elias leads me down the middle of the street as if the crowds and guards weren’t there.

ABOVE: Throngs of people line the streets in anticipation of the celebration

When I expressed interest in going to the Festival earlier in the day, Eric Adjetey Anang immediately called Elias to see if he could take me.  Eric said that Elias would be the best person to accompany me to the event.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Maybe I should have taken a hint when Eric admitted the he had never ventured to go see Gbemliliaa, the opening event of the Homowo festival. 

ABOVE: Right after the chief preists’ advisor placed nynyla around my neck.

It is now 2:55.  I am barefoot in a small courtyard and completely overwhelmed.  I have no clue what is going and wonder if I will ever see my shoes again, which are sitting on the ground among the swarm of people surrounding the hallway leading to the courtyard.  Elias assures me that his brother will take care of my shoes.  I am introduced to the chief priest’s advisor who places nynyla around my neck.  Elias is from the clan of the chief priest!  I then meet Elias’ father and three older women who aid the chief priest.  I among about fifteen to twenty people in the small courtyard.  Everyone greets me with enthusiasm, and for a moment I feel some security.  Two men come out of a doorway, the chief priest and 2nd chief priest.  The chief priest sits down in front of a large mural of himself for several minutes and then begins to get up.

ABOVE: In the background the second chief priest (far right) walks with the chief priest, the chief priests’ advisor, and another priest.  In the foreground 6 men rake hoe along the ground as symbolizing the weeding of the maize. The six men each represent one of the seven clans of Teshie, the Chief priest represents the seventh clan. 

Elias grabs my arm and tells me it is time to go.  We swiftly exit the courtyard leaving behind my shoes and my peace of mind.  The chief priest is starting the ritual of walking through the ceremonial grounds to each of the seven shrines (representing the seven Clans of Teshie).  Elias’ brother joins us as we head to the first shrine.  Elias and his brother walk quickly pushing themselves and me through and against anyone in our way.  They explain that they want to get me in the best places for taking photos.  The chief priest arrives at the first shrine and begins saying incantations to the supreme god, then to the sea to provide more fish, then to the land for more food, and then he asks for abundance of life and for peace to prevail within Teshie and throughout Ghana.  The priest then preforms the right of jemanwojii which is the pouring of Schnapps on the ground to summon the gods and spirits of the land.  

ABOVE: The chief priest performs incantations and sprinkles Schnapps on the ground.  The women in the foreground are the new servants to the gods and are paying homage to the chief priest.

The chief priest and his Entourage consisting of the second chief priest the priest advisor and another priest make their way to the other six shrines performing the same ceremonial rites.  They then go back to the first shrine and start again until each shrine is visited a total of three times.  A celebratory march begins afterwards which works its way back and forth throughout the streets.  Children from the chief priest’s family lead the march.  Everyone is dancing and singing.  

ABOVE: The dress of the two girls signifies they are part of the chief preists’ clan.  Any girl that is part of this clan could become the queen of teshie.  Unlike other cultures, the king and queen in Teshie are not linked by marriage. 

Video of the Gbemlilaa procession

All the while Elias is moving me through the crowd as I video and photo the entire event.  There are other photographers and videographers as well, however it is hard for me to blend into the thousands of people since I am the only white person in sight.  I wonder what the crowds think of a “obruni” taking part in gbemlilaa.  As the festivities start to come to a close,  we head back to Elias’ family house. Elias introduces me to some of the other members of his family back at the house.  He also invites me to some of the other celebrations in the coming weeks.  We shall see.  

I did get my shoes back.

The Homowo Festival

“If you die during this period it is believed that your death is a curse to the land.”

           -Eric Adjetey Anang

The origins of the Teshie people are from the Ga’s, a tribe from Ilefe, Nigeria.  Upon arrival of the Ga’s there was a great famine, so it is believed that the Ga’s managed to harvest a lot of maize and fish from the sea which were used to prepare a dish known as kpokpoi.  A feast of the kpokpoi followed which started the tradition of the Homowo festival.  

Teshie celebrates the Homowo festival starting the second week of August and lasts until the second week of September.  Homowo means “hooting at hunger”.  The week prior to Homowo festival a ritual called nshobulemo occurs, which is when the Teshie fishermen ask the gods to bless them with more fish during the month of the festival.  On the second monday of August a ban is placed on all noisemaking, drumming, dancing and any burying of corpses.  This opening ceremony called gbemliliaa, marks the official start of the Homowo festival.   The following Tuesday night the chief priest walks through the main roads three times with incense to announce the start of the Homowo festival to the gods and ancestors.  

ABOVE: The chief priest of Teshie

The second week of the festival which is the last week of August there are a number of rituals which occur throughout the week. On Monday the people celebrate Homowohae, which is when villages surrounding Teshie come into the city for merry making and drinking.  On Tuesday everyone gathers at their respective family houses and prepares kpokpoi.  Each family has a feast called gonwala during which each family member pays respect to the eldest of the house and asks for blessings and a long life for the years to come.   On friday their is a calling for past ancestors by the pouring of Schnapps on the ground.  On Saturday there is a charity march between Teshie and the neighboring town of Nungua.   Sunday marks the main event of Homowo, a huge festival called hpanshimoo.   During hpanshimoo, the seven clans of Teshie (Ananse, Korleworko, Tafoyefo, Greece, Six, Jah Labour, and Mind You) carry their family flags throughout the town.  

On the eve of the next friday, the people of Teshie go to the neighboring town of Labadi, which is where the Teshie peoples lineage come from.  At 12 o'clock the ban on noisemaking is lifted and the people of Teshie announce to Labadi that they are finished with the festival.  On Saturday, the last hpanshimoo takes place with lots of noise making, dancing and a street carnival.  The chief priest carries the sese, a large spiritual bowl which contains water.  The people of Teshie put money into the bowl in order to have some of the water sprinkled on them so that they may have good luck and that their wishes may come true.  The sese is carried to a shrine by the sea where it is emptied, thus marking the official end of the Homowo festival.